Pat Conroy was one of the best Southern writers in this century. Though he is gone, readers can enjoy this little book of essays, blogs, and speeches.
If you are a reader, it is often a great thrill to meet one of your favorite writers. This generally takes place during a book signing where you may get two minutes to talk (or gush, as I am prone to do) with the person whose books you adore.
With “A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life,” readers are given the opportunity to have conversations with beloved Southern writer Pat Conroy. His books about family, struggles with mental health issues, and life in his much-loved South Carolina always leave an impression and are seldom forgotten.
Many of his books were made into successful films, such as “The Great Santini” with the remarkable performance by Robert Duvall. Because his fiction so closely resembled his real life, Pat’s story of an abusive husband and father was not much appreciated by his family.
His other well-known works include “The Prince of Tides,” “Beach Music,” and “The Lords of Discipline.” I must admit my favorite is “The Prince of Tides.”
The beauty of the little book, “A Lowcountry Heart,” is that the essays and articles written by Pat give the reader insight into the person he was as much as the writer he became. They’re short and easy to read and often begin like he just met you on the sidewalk with a “Hey, there.”
Another element that makes this book so much fun for a fan of Pat’s is hearing about books he read and his reaction to them.
He goes into great detail about what the writer’s work meant to him, and I swear he makes you want to read every book he mentions because he makes it sound so wonderful.
Like most Southerners, Pat adopted a deep and abiding love for food, and again, like most of us, developed the physical problems that go along with enjoying too much of a good thing. He talks about what he did to change his physical health around after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. He had amazing discipline because he turned it all around with diet and exercise.
This is not a book you’d think of as a beach read, but it is delightful to read if you’re a Pat Conroy fan. He talks candidly about old friendships and family relationships. In one of the essays, he calls a former classmate whom he had a terrible crush on when they were in eighth grade. What makes it fun is she remembers nothing about the experiences he recalls with singular clarity. A friend who read one of Pat’s books told her about him thanking her in one of his books, so she went to a signing but still didn’t recognize him.
It’s this kind of humor and honesty that make all these wonderful, short pieces worth reading again and again.
Added to these great stories from Pat are those from his friends and loved ones following his death. The introduction by Cassandra King Conroy is a loving tribute to her husband. We find in the end he was referred to as “The Great Conroy” by his friends. Even his eulogy is included and helps readers feel just how much he was loved and appreciated.
About the Author
Pat Conroy was an award-winning author. This included a special citation from the National Education Association for his work as a teacher in a small one-room schoolhouse on Daufuskie Island in South Carolina. Though he loved teaching there, he was furious at the way these children had been neglected by the school system. He was fired after his first year because of his unconventional teaching methods.
He was the oldest of seven children and was most often the target of his father’s abusive nature. Because his father was an officer in the Marine Corps, the family moved many times. He was in 11 different schools before finishing high school. At his father’s urging, he attended The Citadel, where he received his bachelor’s degree. It was his time there on the basketball team and reconnecting with those men many years later that resulted in the memoir, “My Losing Season.”
He was dedicated to righting social injustice and had a love of words that will be with us always in his books. His legacy is a treasure for all of us who love reading and writing.